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Montana man gets 110 years for killing disabled veteran

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

GREAT FALLS — A Montana man who was convicted of killing a disabled veteran in February 2016, burying his body in the dirt floor of a barn and stealing his disability benefits was sentenced on Friday to 110 years in prison.

Brandon Craft, 25, of Great Falls, will not be eligible for parole until he serves 50 years, District Judge Elizabeth Best ruled.

Craft’s ex-wife Katelyn Zdeb, 25, pleaded guilty in April 2018 to stealing Adam Petzack’s Veterans Affairs benefits for several months after his death. She testified against Craft at his trial in November and was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison with no time suspended.

“You are barbarians, both of you,” Lori Petzack said to Craft and Zdeb during the sentencing hearing. “My son fought for your freedom and independence for four years in the U.S. Army. He received a frontal lobe traumatic brain injury in Mosul, Iraq, from an IED which fully disabled him for the rest of his life, which you both took away.”

“Adam is a very simple man. Adam will never again fall in love. Adam will never marry, have children or make me a grandma,” she continued. “Adam’s hopes and dreams will never be made a reality.”

Petzack said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, anxiety, depression and insomnia, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

During the investigation into Petzack’s disappearance, investigators found Craft and Zdeb sold Petzack’s pickup and set up a credit card reader account and used his debit card to steal $3,500 of his benefits over a three-month period.

Petzack’s remains were found in August 2016 after Craft confessed to shooting him in the head and burying him on property where Craft had lived outside Great Falls. Craft drew a map for investigators.

Petzack, 28, served as a mechanic in the Army from April 2006 to September 2009 and deployed to Iraq from October 2007 to January 2009.

Zdeb’s attorney, Travis Cushman, argued for a probationary sentence for his client, saying she has three minor children to support and hasn’t been in any trouble in the four years since Petzak’s murder. She apologized to Petzack’s family “for all of the heartache that you guys have endured over this,” and said she was “very, very sorry that this has happened.”

Best wasn’t swayed from handing down the maximum sentence.

“I did not find a lot of your testimony to have been completely credible,” Best said. “I … believe that you had much greater involvement in this homicide than you have admitted.”

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